The system is the star at Virginia. It’s the pack-line defense that Tony Bennett’s program employs that really gets the headlines by snuffing out opponents’ offenses.
Bennett, though, has some players, and London Perrantes took a big step Wednesday night in establishing himself as one of the most important of them.
The senior point guard was nothing short of spectacular in the second half – especially in the clutch – as No. 6 Virginia held off Ohio State, 63-61, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Perrantes is no stranger to the dedicated college hoops fan – he was a preseason first-team all-ACC selection – but was just an honorable mention all-ACC player last year after leading the league in 3-point shooting and helming a team that won 29 games as Malcolm Brogdon carried much of the offensive load. He’s not particularly flashy and he’s certainly not finding his way to many highlight packages, but, damn, is the kid good.
Especially when it matters most.
After going 1 of 5 from the floor in the first half, Perrantes connected on five of the seven shots he took, including all three of his 3-pointers, to score 15 in the second half and finish with 19 against the Buckeyes. That’s the totality of his impact, but when measured in its moments, his value is even more stark.
Ohio State scored four quick points just after the midway point of the second half to push its lead back to eight after Virginia had briefly taken the lead, having overcome a 16-point deficit, when Perrantes drilled his first 3-pointer of the half. Minutes later, his second 3-pointer halved the Buckeyes’ lead from six to three.
His final 3-pointer was the most important. After Virginia grabbed an offensive rebound, Perrantes launched a shot from distance with just under 4 minutes to play. Pure, to tie the game at 55.
As the stakes got higher, Perrantes’ jumper kept delivering, finding its mark with no care paid to the rising pressure.
Perrantes’ cool was also tested at the free-throw line, where coming into the night he had attempted just four shots on the season. With under 90 seconds to play, the senior strode to the stripe with his team up a pair. Swish. Swish. Lead doubled.
He got it done on the defensive end, as well, especially, you guess it, late. With just over 3 minutes remaining and the score tied, Perrantes played the passing lane, shrinking an already small window, and helped force an Ohio State turnover.
Virginia’s defense suffocated the Buckeyes in the second half, but Perrantes breathed life into the Cavaliers’ offense that was otherwise straining to maintain a pulse at times throughout the game.
With Brogdon and Anthony Gill graduated and Austin Nichols gone, Virginia, even with its system intact and running smoothly, is going to need guys to make plays. The Cavaliers need toughness and leadership. Grit and fearlessness.
London Perrantes showed emphatically Wednesday he’s the man for the job.